Hello and thank you for visiting the online portfolio of costume designer, model and cosplayer Yaya Han®. Born in China and raised dually in Asia and Europe, Yaya has crossed oceans to live her dream as an artist. For the past 12 years, Yaya has been creating full costumes and fashion pieces in the United States, and what began as a passionate hobby has evolved into a loving craft and career.
Yaya is one of only few cosplayers in the world to build a business in this hobby-ist community, but even after a decade of success, she strives to stay true to what got her into this field originally - fun and creativity. To this day, Yaya has made a myriad of costumes in the genres of anime/manga, video games, sci-fi and of course from her own original designs. Her intricate and lavish creations have won awards and acclaim nationwide, and she has been invited to appear as a Guest, Panelist, Judge, Performer and Host to over 100 conventions and other events all over the world.
Through hard work, unmatched passion and infectious enthusiasm, Yaya has helped Cosplay gain respect and integrity as an artform in the fandom world and art communities, and her decade long campaign for creativity has helped raise Cosplay to the standards we know today. Everyday, Yaya continues to pave the path for the beloved art and lifestyle we know as Costume Play.
A few simple facts...
Birthday: 10th April
Astrological Sign: Aries
Ethic Decent: Chinese
Languages: Fluent in Chinese, German, English; some Spanish, Latin, French and Japanese
Occupation: Costume Designer, Cosplay Entertainer and Model
Residency: Atlanta, Georgia
Former Residencies: Xian, China; Guang Zhou, China; Wiesbaden, Germany; Tucson, Arizona; Las Vegas, Nevada
Pet: Captain Nemo (Silkie Terrier)
Passions: ancient cultures, music, art, theatre, cars, exotic foods, fashion, makeup, shoes, photography, creativity
Hobbies: drawing/painting, sewing, sculpting, crafting, costume and fashion design, singing, reading, traveling, caving, hiking, shopping...
In Her Own Words
I got into Cosplay.... over 12 years ago!
The short answer is that I went to a con, saw cosplay in action, and got hooked. But to elaborate - I have been an anime/manga fan since childhood after watching "Saint Seiya" at age 8. By 1999 I had read and watched tons of Japanimation and was an avid artist in Arizona. Through the local anime club I learned about Anime Expo and decided to attend the con to sell my artwork. I found www.fansview.com and photos of the previous AX years, including pictures of people dressed up as these cool anime characters. Before knowing what this phenomenon was, I instantly became attracted to it - what better way to show my childhood love for the anime/manga fandom than to "become" my favorite characters?
Unfortunately I didn't know how to sew back then, so I asked a kind friend to show me the basic use of a sewing machine and patterns. With her help I made my first piece of (Asian inspired) garment and wore it to Anime Expo. Throughout the weekend I kept seeing more people dressed up and learned that this was called COSPLAY! It was all over from that point on.
I continued making costumes, experimenting and learning by doing and reading sewing books. I think a lot of the fun in costuming lies within problem solving. In 12 years, between costumes for myself and friends, I have made well over 200 complete costumes. That's not counting costumes and accessories made for customers.
As you can see from my galleries, I have a fairly broad taste - ranging from anime/manga to video games to movies, comics, j-music, and a variety of original designs. I think I just get easily excited about entertainment in general lol. What kept my interest in cosplay all these years and after all these sewing projects is the creative freedom I experience. It's not only sewing but also sculpting, wig-work, props, makeup, photography etc. The possibilities are endless and I am constantly learning something new, which is a lot of fun!
I work as a costume designer/model/cosplayer for a living...
...which can sound confusing. Sometimes I get questions about how I can be a "Cosplayer" for a living, so just to clarify - I make costumes and cosplay accessories for a living on a freelance basis, and I get paid to design costumes, to make and wear my costumes for events, and to model them for photoshoots.
I used to have a salary desk job and did not enjoy it, so to be able to turn what started out as a favorite hobby into a paying career is wonderful. I get to take trips often and meet new friends as well as spend time with far away ones, and I am creatively stimulated all the time. Of course there are drawbacks, such as jet lag and never having a true day off, but I would rather stay busy than be bored. :) I would love to continue to have steady work as a costume designer and model, and expand my growing line of cosplay items.
As for modeling, I got into it through making costumes a few years ago. Two friends of mine really began to spend time with me doing Photography - M. who photographed me modeling her creations for www.theFaeriegrove.com back in year 2001, and Nadine Dodd who kindly shot several of my personal outfits. Both really inspired me to pursue modeling as a part of costuming. I branched out into fashion and glamor style modeling through another incredible artist, Kevin Stewart of Black Eye Photography, who pushes me to new heights with each photo shoot we do. We even exhibited a gallery of three years of collaborated photography work between us.
I love modeling because of the creative process of storytelling and the power a good picture can have. Same reason I love art on paper - composing well-rounded images with care. I also love modeling because it challenges me to act in front of a camera and portray a variety of characters. However, In the end my passion lies with costume design, so modeling will probably always stay a semi-hobby to me. I really enjoy it but I would be bored as just a model hired to wear other people's clothes. The photoshoots I love are the crazy artistic concepts where I can be creative and be involved in every aspect of the theme.
Cosplay and conventions....
...go hand in hand for me. I started out going to cons as a regular attendee who cosplayed and entered contests with my outfits. My friends and I were always working on elaborate dramatic skits that combined choreographed dancing and interactions with music (no dialogue). We were very successful with our style of performances and won Best in Show awards and other awards at almost every convention we competed at. But after competing heavily for about 2 years I got tired of spending all of my precious convention times working on the skits and waiting backstage, so I stopped entering contests and just cosplayed in the halls and hung out with my friends. I also started taking an interest in doing photoshoots outside of cons with my costumes, which largely was thanks to my enthusiastic photographer friends. It turned out that I was one of the very first cosplayers to do location and studio photoshoots in costumes, and it makes me happy to know that through my photo contributions and that of my cosplay peers a decade ago, photography is now an intricate part of cosplay. Making your costume is just half of the battle, the ultimate prize is to capture the essence of a character in a really great professional looking photograph. I love seeing this artform evolve.
In 2001 I became the first cosplayer to be invited to a convention as a Guest of Honor. It was a rare thing for a "fan" to receive the same appearance contract and compensation as voice actors, artists and producers working in the anime industry. Since then I have appeared at over 100 conventions world wide as Guest, panelist, speaker, host and/or judge. It's hard for me to believe that I have been to so many conventions, let alone contributed to the programming and events. I am proud to be able to say that I help lay the foundation for many other cosplayers to be invited as convention guests today, and I have helped set the standards for cosplay the way it is viewed in the convention circuit today. Even 10 years ago, cosplayers were just another group of fans and attendees at cons. They were never deemed important enough to be judges for costume contests or give panels on cosplay. Most contests were judged by voice actors and artists who didn't know very much about craftsmanship. Now conventions respect cosplayers and understand that a costume contest is best run and judged by cosplayers. There are more prestigious prizes offered up in contests and some cons reserve a panel room for just cosplay panels all weekend long. It truly is a joy for me to see the convention circuit recognize the importance of having cosplayers at events. We are the visual community of the anime fandom. We brighten up the halls of the conventions and help make the atmosphere fun and colorful! You can see my upcoming travel schedule here!
Thanks to cosplay I also got to travel to several countries, all of which have been fascinating. There are some key differences between US cons and events abroad. It is under my impression that Mexico, Brazil and Italy seem to take cosplay very serious at their events and put a lot of effort into assisting cosplayers. For example - the contests often offer nice cash prizes, cosplayers sometimes have a dressing and rest area, and even receive discount or free badges at certain events. I'd like to think that foreign conventions want to nurture cosplay. Heck, even mainstream media also seems more interested in conventions and cosplay in general. For stage performances, some foreign conventions allow live steel, pyrotechnics, and other special effects that are strictly forbidden in the US. I understand the safety issue, but those rules definitely limit what we can do on stage locally. I can honestly say that some of the best skits I have seen were performed in other countries.
I love visiting cons abroad and talking about the differences between cultures, conventions and communities. We might not all speak the same languages, but we share the same love for anime and cosplay! I have made some great friends and met some absolutely incredible cosplayers.
Read about my personal history if you're curious...